Jeanne Gustavson was head over heels in love with Stephen Watts. But her family disapproved of interracial couples. They tried, but in the end, they couldn’t make it work. After 42 years apart Jeanne found her true love again and married him.
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PEOPLE featured the story of a woman who reconnected with her long-lost love after 42 years apart. And just a few months ago, the couple — Stephen Watts and Jeanne Watts (formerly Gustavson) — got married!
“When he proposed, I said, ‘A thousand times yes!'” Jeanne, now 69, tells PEOPLE for the Valentine’s Day special in this week’s issue. “We’re trying to make up for 42 lost years.”
Jeanne and Stephen first met in 1971, when she was a freshman and he was a senior at Chicago’s Loyola University.
“He was my first love. He was my true love,” Jeanne said in last year’s Love issue.
But Jeanne’s mom strongly objected to the relationship because she didn’t want her White daughter seeing a Black man.
“She just went ballistic,” Jeanne said. “She didn’t want this relationship to happen at all.”
The couple met in 1971 when Gustavson was a freshman and Watts was a senior at Loyola University Chicago.
Their connection was instant. They would intentionally linger after meetings, to visit with one another. Then, they started showing up early to spend additional time together too. Before long, they were scheduling plans outside of school.
“It became very apparent very quickly that we had feelings for each other,” Gustavson said. “We were falling in love.”
“It was our first true love, each one of us,” Gustavson said.
“I can’t turn back the clock. I wish I could,” Gustavson told CBS News. “I would have married him.”
“What I found was sort of a broken man,” she said.
Like Gustavson, Watts was divorced with no kids. But life for him had been much harder. He had been homeless, suffered two strokes and was almost unrecognizable the day Gustavson walked back into his life.
“But he’s still the wonderful, gorgeous man that I knew,” Gustavson said.
“I feel terribly lucky that I get a second chance — we both get a second chance,” she said.
It took several weeks to organize Watts’s medical transport, which cost $14,000. Friends, family and strangers contributed — and are continuing to contribute — to help cover travel expenses, as well as much-needed medical equipment and support for Watts. -Seattle Times